By Coach Jay Mendenhall
I love football because discipline over time yields results. Of all activities in today’s world, it is one of the remaining few bastions that remind us that results don’t happen overnight – not right when we want it. And it only happens if you show up every day, even when you don’t want to. It takes patience, persistence, selflessness and sacrifice. I would venture to say that if one was to sit down and write down all of the problems in our society that upset them the most, the character traits listed above would be much of the antidote or prevention to many of them. Other sports teach similar traits, but football stands alone for a few reasons. Maybe my favorite reason is that no other sport has a position where you literally never touch the ball unless something goes very wrong (lineman). I firmly believe, based on a litany of Scripture, that the purpose of a Christian life is to serve, not to be served – as ultimately displayed by our Savior, Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:3-8). And I also firmly believe that “center-of-the-universe” parenting styles that teach children from a young age that their comfort and happiness are all that matters, and everything else must bend the knee to those goals, is deeply antithetical to what is taught in Scripture. So, I love football because it teaches that having the ball in your hand is important, but it’s just another job. Blocking for the guy with the ball is just as important, and when the ball carriers are praising the blockers and the blockers are praising the ball-carriers, special things happen.
That said, I have had the opportunity to coach this wonderful game at OBA during most of my 16 years here. Enid’s best citizen, Paul Dunbar, started the program around 20 years ago and some of my first experiences were getting to coach junior high football with him, which is a privilege I will never forget. I could write a few pages on every coach I have gotten to coach football with at OBA, but the uniqueness of the program over the past 20 years has been how many volunteer coaches have sacrificed to expand the vision of equipping young men to be better husbands, fathers, and members of Christ’s body. Too many people to count, and many unknown, have sacrificed countless hours and personal capital to extend this vision. Board members from 20 years ago have shared how the morning after approving a football program they began the work of pulling soccer goals, setting dimensions for the field, and eventually setting goal posts, lights, field posts for the fence, building bleachers and a field house brick-by-brick, etc. No bond issue passed, just a volunteer workforce of a couple-dozen men who shared the same vision, and gave sacrificially in all ways to make it happen.
From the founding of a little country school 111 years ago by a persecuted people seeking to have the freedom to teach all subjects through the lens of God’s Word, to the farmers who sacrificed personal property to help the school in lean times, to current families sacrificing a car payment to have their kids at OBA – I just want to put my brick in the wall. We aren’t perfect, and we mess up, but we will always lean on the solid rock and His mission for discipleship because He doesn’t mess up. I am so thankful for those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice, for the program. In the 16 years I have been at OBA, every kid who finished the football process through their senior year can communicate that sacrificial mission because they’ve joined in the mission and saw it through. Even though the team finished 13-1 this year and appeared in the state semi-finals, those accomplishments are foolishness if young men do not grasp the mission of loving and serving something bigger than themselves. This is why I coach football at Oklahoma Bible Academy.